Samuel Hayim Brody
Bush the Exception, p.5

Johnston's book makes it clear that on Social Security, corporate accountability, and taxes of all kinds, the Bush administration sides with the best-off people in the country every time. But he also shows the ways in which, over the last twenty years, Republicans and Democrats in Congress have both contributed to this sorry state of affairs. Democrats have often been the worst offenders, especially with regard to the alternative minimum tax and the proposal in 1997 to eliminate lifestyle as grounds for an IRS audit, included in a bill promoted as tax cuts for the middle-class, but featuring huge reductions in the rate of taxation on long-term capital gains. It was the Democrats who, in 1983, voted to change Social Security from pay-as-you-go to a higher-tax system meant to insure retirement and disability well into the future. In point of fact, however, these taxes were not put away for Social Security but spent to finance Reagan's tax cuts for the rich. Johnston shows that the trend towards vast and increasing income inequality over the last twenty years has been steady, no matter who has been in power. Bush is making things much worse, but Kerry is not likely to take action on this issue.

"Anyone But Bush" is a fine strategy to undo the evils described in The Price of Loyalty. But it will not undo the deep structures of unfairness, and political deceit, that undergird the entire system. In other words, as soon as a Democrat is back in office, it's back to work for progressives and anyone else who really cares about changing the system to relieve the burden it now places on the poor. Kerry, like Clinton, will manage the system in favor of the rich. But then again he probably won't commit his entire administration and all its resources to the destruction of government's social and environmental-protection functions, the way Bush is doing. And, if his past and present thoughtfulness is any guide, Kerry will at least think before he acts.

It's a mistake for global justice activists to imagine themselves along the left/right continuum, or at least, not when the figure on the Right is someone with no ideology other than political expediency. Clinton cleverly expanded free trade, increasing globalization and carving out new markets for American products. Bush, despite his free-trade rhetoric, has enacted steel tariffs, a policy condemned by just about everyone except the auto industry, solely for political gain.

Activism is impossible in an environment like this. In order to overthrow the Emperor, the Emperor's actions have to at least be intelligible and predictable as following some pattern other than purely self-aggrandizement. But this administration has been an exception to the rules of left and right; they are interventionists overseas when they want to intervene, they trample on states' rights when they want to trample -- these are not conservative values. From wars to taxes, the administration is empty to the core. Perhaps the reason the Left is now chanting "Anyone but Bush" is because Bush has been the only principle, if one can call it that, of the government. The Bush administration has pursued a politics that perfectly reflects the impressionable ignoramus at its head: serving neither the left nor the right, the market nor the government, liberalism nor conservatism. Serving, in the end, only itself.

[1]       [2]       [3]       [4]       5
Image: Mica Scalin

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March 2004

Passion and Violence
Jay Michaelson

A Song of Ascents:
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Sarah Lefton

Bush the Exception
Samuel Hayim Brody

The Wrong Half
Margaret Mackenzie Schwartz

God Had a Controlling Interest
Hal Sirowitz

Eliezer Sobel

Josh hosts a party
Josh Ring

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From previous issues:

French Antisemitism
Michael Shurkin

Zionism and Colonialism
Michael Shurkin

Faces of Death
Thomas Vinciguerra